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Review: ‘Halloween Kills’ (2021) – What a Time to Be Alive

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Review: 'Halloween Kills' (2021) - What a Time to Be Alive

Ain’t no time like the present, right folks? It is a good era for horror fandom. We are lucky to be in this timeline. The USA and SYFY networks are both airing a new Chucky TV series. We’ll get to see America’s favorite foul-mouthed children’s plaything (take that, Ted) slice and dice on a weekly basis. Did you know there’s a Hellraiser television show coming out as well? They’ve ALSO got a new Pinhead, for a new movie, and this Pinhead is a lady Pinhead, for whatever that may mean to an eternal angel of pain. Cenobite gender roles continue to confound. And who’s lurking under the Ghostface mask this time around in the new Scream movie? I was hoping they’d stylize it like “5cream,” because I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to call it “Five Cream” out loud. Plus they’re moving towards ending the litigation jamming up the Friday the 13th movies. Add to that the original work and adaptations from contemporary artists in their prime (Jordan Peele, Issa Lopez, Mike Flannagan, etc.), and it’s a good era for horror fandom.

They got a new Halloween movie you can watch right there in your own house.

When I was in high school, we began the longest Halloween movie drought since the series’ inception. In 2009, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II was released, and then there wasn’t another Halloween for nine years. 9 years! That’s almost the entirety of the 2010s gone undefined by a Michael Myers movie. He could’ve murdered an EDM DJ! There had never been a nine-year gap between Halloween movies dating all the way back to 1978. Now, there I was, 18, a big fan, and I was going to have to wait half my years for another Halloween.

Although the three years between David Gordon Green’s Halloween and Halloween Kills felt few by comparison, this gap was longer than was intended. As is the case for everything around 2020, Halloween Kills was delayed for a full year and now was plopped not just into theaters, but also onto Peacock, NBC Universal’s fledgling streaming app. And while Peacock finds its feathers, Halloween Kills grossed $55 million at the box office this past weekend. That’s the second-biggest October opening of all time. They let people stay home and still set a runner-up record. All we had to do was wait three years.

Halloween Kills Fire Fighter Image

The Halloween story literally doesn’t miss a step, as it begins the moment after the last one ended. There’s lots of “if this happened, then that must be true” in the script. Halloween Kills feels like it is in conversation with both its immediate predecessor and also the night in 1978 when it all began. I love that. Because it ensures that somebody coming to the story years from now, a new fan, can watch them all back-to-back-to-back on Blu-Ray or DVD or streamed directly into their eye-sockets, and it’ll all work seamlessly.

Here is my first opinion that I will offer you regarding Halloween Kills: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and the writers they’ve worked with so far have created a genuine sage for the first time in the franchise. John Carpenter had his original bolt in the blue, then his incredible sequel, and then bobbed and weaved with Season of the Witch, hoping to turn the Halloween series into an anthology. The story restarted with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Then they used the same actor playing the same main character, Jamie, in Halloween 5. But then with Curse, the actor was changed, the timeline was muddied, and there were maybe too many things going on with too many re-edits. So then we restarted and stalled and restarted and stalled, until we got here. Finally, we have three movies, Halloween  (1978), Halloween (2018), and Halloween Kills (2021), which are meant to be viewed all in a row like it’s the damn Lord of the Rings.

That’s what I mean about this now being a “saga.” The creators working on the series have expanded it out like a Star Wars movie. This is the second opinion I’d like to share with you. These new Halloween movies kinda feel like the new Star Wars movies. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you. I’m just happy that I get to see new Star Warses and Halloweens. Ok, here is my point: Halloween and Star Wars, the parallels are many. Both have an original entry that came seemingly out of nowhere in the 1970s, creating legions of fans and influencing decades of filmmaking. Both franchises then saw reboots in the mid-to-late 2010s. Those films, (Halloween (2018), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens) feature examples of heavy mirroring and circuity with their earlier counterparts. Just like Rey was our new Luke Skywalker, Allyson was our new Laurie Strode. The balance of the force had been disrupted and Michael Myers was coming home again. And just like the next Star War, The Last Jedi, expanded out some previously unexplored avenues, so too does Halloween Kills. That also means that this movie seems focused on setting up the eminent Halloween Ends. In that way, it can oftentimes feel like a bridge between two tentpoles.

Halloween Kills Laurie

It’s an interesting story. Why not take a step into the ways Michael Myers has affected Haddonfield. We are still very close to and very aware of the continuing story of Laurie Strode, and it’s so fun to see where characters from ‘78 are now. My heart opened when I saw Sheriff Brackett and Nurse Marion Chambers. Tommy Doyle has a new face in Anthony Michael Hall’s, while Lindsey Wallace is the same actor that played her as a little girl. It feels like when we got to see C-3PO again, or something. So we catch up and check in with all these other, more “incidental” players in this tale. And guess what? They’ve got lots of trauma. The continuing Halloween story seems perfectly of a piece with the rest of today’s Grief Horror. Your Babadooks, your Hereditarys, all these newfangled horror movies that are all about loss and trauma. This is a story with lots and lots of trauma.

There were lots of flashbacks in this movie. Some of them flashed back earlier in the same nights, to events that happened during Halloween (2018), and even more that flashed back to The Night He Came Home (Halloween [1978]). In addition to the flashbacks, there is pretty ample use of that same deepfake stuff they used to make Princess Leia still alive or whatever. It’s Loomis here, though, and I don’t know that there’s a need. I’ve been told that technically, it’s prosthetics carrying this illusion, but the effect is still the same. It doesn’t add to the story when hologram (read: prosthetic) Loomis comes around. It seems a bit like a “Look what we can do,” type of thing. At least now. This part’s important: I am judging the second part in a trilogy before I am able to see the whole. As with anything, if I’m given more information, my feelings may change. But for now, here, with just these first two movies, I don’t think they need to do a prosthetic Loomis. It’s still got the whole uncanny valley going on, plus we’re all pretty aware that Donald Pleasance is dead.

I love, though, how this feels like an entry in a comic book series that stretches out the lore and mythology. Those expecting a faithful recreation of John Carpenter’s style may be disappointed. But they shouldn’t be! This isn’t John Carpenter’s movie. So when we feel like we spend the runtime kinda knowing where Michael is, that’s because he lurks differently in David Gordon Green movies. Carpenter had him just out of frame, all the time, making us scan the entire picture to search for where he might be hiding. Maybe Michael’s a little older now and treasures that spotlight, because he makes his presence known. We follow him for long periods of time with The Shape front-and-center. It’s fascinating.

Halloween Kills Flashback Image

I’d also like to touch on the humour here. There are moments that seem discordant with the tone of the first few, but why the heck not? Some moments got huge laughs in the theater I sat in. Particularly, there is this one strange, hilarious moment that elicited quite the response from this crowd. It’s set-up by a nurse administering a drug that “takes the pain away.” Then, a few moments later, Laurie Strode delivers a rousing speech where she makes it clear she’s ready to fight. She then takes the same syringe, yells “It takes the pain away!” and stabs herself in the ass. It was weird. It was funny. I’m baffled and happy that the moment exists.

That’s my overall impression of Halloween Kills. I’m happy it exists. I went through a period once where there were 9 years where I couldn’t go see a Halloween movie in theaters. That stinks! Here, I get one after waiting only three years, and it’s all over the place! There are tons of unexpected thrills and cool kills and set pieces. I’m happy it exists. Are these the story beats I would’ve chosen? No, but tough taffy, bub, cause I’m not the guy who gets to make the Halloweens. Maybe someday. But for now, why would I sit and roll my eyes at a different, perfectly valid vision? I had fun. It was worth my money. It did not feel like any other Halloween movie I’d seen. It felt like the best entry in a comic book sequel series that expands and expounds upon the universe of Haddonfield, Illinois. It’s new, it’s different, it’s not John Carpenter-y, and it’s got some great kills. I’m happy it exists.

Halloween Kills is available in theaters and on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming app. I suggest you check it out and form your own opinions. And then, I’d like for you to share those opinions with me! Give me a shout on Twitter, I’m @billreick

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